Protect Your Final Wishes to be Buried vs Cremated

Good grief. You want to be buried when you die but just heard your final wishes could be overturned by an executor. Is it true or can you go out the way you planned?

Burial Costs in the GTA

The traditional family plot is becoming a thing of the past, Ontario funeral directors say. That’s because buying a family-sized plot in the cemetery of your choice is insanely pricey. Joining insulin discoverer Sir Frederick Banting in Mississauga’s Mount Pleasant Cemetery, for instance, could cost as much as $33,000. Not including the casket, vault cover, your final attire and funeral director fees. Before you get too carried away, remember your estate will be paying for:

  • a burial plot or columbarium for your urn
  • the casket or urn itself
  • having a funeral home prepare your body and host a service
  • your going away outfit
  • flowers at the service and gravesite
  • obituaries
  • a lunch or reception
  • and honorarium for the service.

Respecting Your Funeral Wishes

Say you specified in your will you want an elaborate funeral with grand floral displays, a silk-lined oak casket and a tea sandwich and dainties reception. Sounds lovely. But wait. Your estate is modest, as was your life. The funeral of your dreams is a mind-boggling $20,000. Things may not go quite as you planned.

Executor Has a Say in Funeral Plans

Depending on how much you set aside for your funeral, your wishes could be flipped on their end by your estate trustee. Funeral instructions in your will are not legally binding. Your personal representative is responsible only for administering your estate according to the resources available to them. If you failed to leave enough in your will or declined to pay funeral expenses up front, your close family and friends may be sadly disappointed.

Honouring Family Wishes in Funeral Planning

When a world of difference exists between what you wanted and your estate’s ability to pay, executors are wise to ask your family. Compromises are best left to those close to you. A less extravagant funeral may be just fine if it means your estate can pay outstanding taxes, settle debts, compensate the executor and have something left over for your family. 

Taking an Estate Trustee to Court 

In a serious dispute, your heirs can take the executor to court. Courts are reluctant to interfere in a deceased’s final wishes, but they may side with the family when an executor has been reckless with your money. It is up to an Ontario court to decide if your estate trustee overspent and deliver a judgment to collect the vexsome sum. After all, you may not have realized your investments weren’t performing as well as they were when you made your will. Surely your executor could have exercised more restraint, especially knowing they are personally liable for estate decisions..

Protecting Funeral Plans in a Will

Pre-paying for your funeral can take the burden off your estate trustee. Or consider adding a memorandum or annex to a will stating how you want your funeral organized. Setting limits on how much your executor can spend clears up potential disputes and makes their decisions easier.

Agreeing to Disagree About Funeral Practices

So why do many Catholics, orothodox or conservative Jews and Muslims insist on burial? Being buried allows for resurrection and shows respect for the dead. Scattering ashes, memorializing them in a pendant (yes, it happens) or keeping cremated remains on the mantle is blasphemous. Of course, the Vatican’s views haven’t stopped Italians from worshipping urns on their hearth or tossing ashes onto the winds of fortune, like in The Big Lebowski (hopefully not). Even the Vatican has lightened up on the subject.

Consider Cremation If Burial is Too Rich for Your Estate

Over 65% of occupants of Dignity Memorial in Windsor and 60% of deceased Ontarians did. Cremations have been on the uptick since 1963, when the Roman Catholic Church okayed the practice. 

Taking Your Leave in an Urn

Compared to a formal burial with graveside prayers and a polished wooden casket (cardboard for greens), cremation can be a good way to take your leave. Residing with other penny pinchers or non-believers in a niche of your own is $5,435 and up at Mount Pleasant. “Scattering grounds” rights go for a mere $1,760. It only makes sense that 40% of enthusiasts cite cost as grounds for cremation. 

A Word of Caution

Check local bylaws before you get too excited about having your ashes scattered. Gathering at the seaside or in a park to say final goodbyes may not even be legal. Who wants that on their conscience?

Probate a Last Will and Testament

No need to worry if you’ve been appointed estate trustee and don’t know where to start. A video chat with Axess Law Ontario wills and estate lawyers gets you the legal advice you need. Dial toll free to 1-877-552-9377 or 647-479-0118 in Toronto or use our online booking form to make an appointment. Video calls and e-signing appointments can be arranged anywhere in Ontario, 7 days a week, day or evening. You can meet in person with a licensed wills lawyer at our Toronto, Scarborough, Vaughan, Etobicoke, Ottawa, Mississauga Winston Churchill or Mississauga Heartland law offices. 
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